Monday, July 30, 2007

Dating in Sudan

How does one take his wife out on a date in Sudan? Here is what it looked like for us...Tuesday is market day so I thought it would be a good day to take Bethany into town and "cruise the streets". So, I lined up the baby sitters, a couple short-term girls. Put the boys down for their nap at 1 pm and slipped out the door. We walked maybe 300 feet, enjoying our first date alone when suddenly several students from the school joined us for a romantic walk into town. We aren't allowed to show public affection, but I was allowed to link arms with Bethany as we crossed the river. The river was especially high so it was expected that Bethany would hold pretty tight to me as we crossed. Pretty smooth of us, eh?

We arrived into town and we hoped the boys had only joined us for the walk, which was true for they wanted to check out any new items in the market. We are only a few miles from the Ethiopian border so every week that the peace holds in Sudan, the more items come into the market.

Right, so I needed to take Bethany out to eat, right? I took her to the only restaurant, "The W Hotel". The hostess must have had the day off so we seated ourselves. We literally had to find our seats, clean off the table and sit down. Not bad. The owner asked us something we didn't quite understand and soon the whole restaurant was interested in helping us out, shouting questions and answers sometimes in English, sometimes in Arabic. What soon arrived was a small bowl of boiled goat and two pieces of bread, each. Perfect. Exactly what we had ordered. And, just because I love my wife so much, I had some Pepsis shipped in by donkey from Ethiopia. An exquisite meal.

After lunch, I took Bethany for some tea, which is 1/3 sugar, 1/3 boiled tea grounds, and 1/3 boiling water. Absolutely fantastic stuff. Brightens any day. After tea we strolled the market, marveling at the matches, flashlights, unroasted coffee beans, and fried bread. We bought some juice powder and crackers as they are essentials for life (man cannot live on bread and water alone).

The daily afternoon rain loomed large, quickly moving in from Ethiopia, meaning the river would be even higher as we went home. It was time to go. We walked the mile and a half back home in the slightly less romantic format of man in front, woman three paces behind. And that is how you have a date in Sudan.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Isaac's 3rd Birthday

What a day! All I can do is smile as I recall everything we did yesterday for Isaac's birthday! Our day started with a nice breakfast of eggs from our very own hens on the compound! We stuck a candle in Isaac's eggs and sung "Happy Birthday" to him. He sang along. :)
He spent the rest of the morning doing his usual, but the real fun began when he woke up from his nap. We had been invited to a double wedding in a small Mabaan village just a half mile away (Mabaan is one of the main tribes here.) I had gone around 1 p.m. while Eli stayed behind during the boys' nap and when they woke up around 3:30, he brought them.
The village had been celebrating with singing, dancing, eating, and drinking lots of homemade alcohol for the past couple of days and we had heard them from home. It was so amazing to be right there listening to their songs, watching the women dance, and learn about Mabaan weddings. Rebecca is a Mabaan woman who received a good education up north and speaks English. She translated for me most of the time. She took me to meet the brides who were both very young and covered in beads and local jewelry. They've been locked up in their hut for 6 months until their wedding day! They're only allowed out at night. I must admit that they looked a little depressed and ready for the whole thing to be over. :)
After eating a good meal of kisra (sour flat bread) with chicken soup and having some hot tea with the brides, I went back to watch the dancing. A group of the ladies came over to me and kept saying they wanted to be my friend, telling me their names, and putting their hands on my chest which seems to be a very special greeting for close friends. That made my day.
When Eli and the boys arrived, everyone was excited to meet them. People are always most curious about the boys because if they have seen white people before, they've usually never seen white children. Evan and Isaac are very good about being poked and petted and will usually be polite and shake hands. Isaac has ventured to say a few Arabic greetings but does so very shyly.
Just as a big crowd of women brought the brides (hoisted on their shoulders and covered from head to toe in cloth) and the men brought the grooms (both barely 20 years old!) a huge dust storm blew in. We had seen the wall of rain coming and boy did it hit! Within seconds, all of us ducked into whatever huts we could find. Meanwhile the singing and dancing went on outside, as if it wasn't even raining!
After about 20 minutes of torrential downpour, we were beckoned to Esther's tukul (hut). Esther is one of the ladies who cooks for us. She served us a wonderful meal of rice and pig stew. For the wedding, the village had butchered 10 pigs! It was delicious. Evan had 4 helpings!
Once the rain subsided and it was starting to get dark, we said our congratulations and goodbyes and walked home, slipping and sliding in the mud all the way home. Isaac thought it was the coolest thing ever and of course put his boots on as soon as we got home so he and Evan could enjoy the puddles in the day's last light.
I hurriedly baked a cake and made hot drinks: tea and coffee. Meseret made pop corn and brought some special Ethiopian bread she'd made earlier that is Isaac's favorite. I blew up a few balloons and put up the birthday banner and called everyone.
Meseret had bought traditional Ethiopian outfits for all the boys: her son Benjamin, Isaac, Evan and even 8 month old Thomas! So we took their picture, lit the candles and sang Happy Birthday. Our Sudanese brothers thought it was quite the celebration. After enjoying lots of cake (dessert is rare here) Isaac opened his gifts. He got a box of instant mashed potatoes from the Crowders and a new set of puzzles from us. He was ecstatic!
As we were tucking the boys into bed, Eli prayed and thanked the Lord for these 3 years we've been blessed to have Isaac. God alone knows how many more years Isaac has, but we trust He has an amazing plan for His life. It was such a special day for all of us.
Today the four of us were driving down to the river to try out our new boat/raft, and as I looked out at the Sudanese landscape I told Eli there was no place I'd rather be. We praise the Lord that He's given us such a joy and contentment to be here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

First Two Weeks

Dear Friends,
These first 2 weeks in Sudan have been difficult at times but there have many occasions where we’ve thought: “This is where we belong. We can do this.” I’ve found that I get “charged” by being out with people. God has given me opportunities to get out to be with people and it’s given me a new energy and excitement to be here. On Saturday, the three of us missionary wives went to visit a small village nearby. We stopped and had tea with a sweet couple, Esther and Peter, practiced our Arabic, and answered their many questions: Where are we from? Why did we come? How long will we stay? And on and on. When we got up to leave, Peter asked us to wait and in a few minutes he returned with a gift of a live chicken for each of us. This is a very generous gift since he gave us hens which lay eggs, so we said many thanks and left.
On Sunday we walked almost 2 miles to church. The boys did amazingly well sitting quietly through about half of the service and then I took them out to sit under a huge tree. We attracted quite a crowd of small village children who had probably never seen a white child before! I had given Isaac and Evan a ziplock bag of raisins for a small snack and they started passing them out to all the children (there were almost 20!) It was so much fun to see the children’s smiles and hear their giggles as they tasted these sweet treats for the first time. I was worried they wouldn’t eat it since they look a lot like goat poop!
I think we’ve done really well learning Arabic so far and we’ve picked up A LOT! But we haven’t been very disciplined about sitting down with our language helper every day since there are sooooo many projects and jobs Eli is needed to help with. So hopefully next week we can set up some new priorities. Eli has been a huge help around here. Our teammates daily thank him for all he does. When something’s not working or Chris needs something built or made, Eli does it, even if he doesn’t know how or if he’s never done it before. And he’s had great success so far. I think God has given him a great gift in this area and I’m so proud of him and thankful God is using him in this way. Love, Bethany (and Eli, Isaac, and Evan)

P.S. Just another side note. I don’t know if I mentioned this but we are able to receive packages in Kenya . Our teammates have received close to 30 packages in the past 2 years! So we know it works. The address is: Eli and Bethany Fader, SIM SUDAN
Box 79252 , 00200, City Square, Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa

The things that would be nicest to receive: books for the boys, drink mixes (Koolaid, Crystal Light, Gatorade).